You build good writing in a variety of ways, some of which are less obvious than others. As you work through the following list, note carefully which ones are especially relevant to you, and be sure to record these for future reflection buy a movie review online.
- Attentive individual reading and active response to your reading
Almost all good writers begin by being good readers, attentive not only to what is said but to how it is said. Good writing in this course comes out of engagement with the literature, of being interested in it and genuinely having something to say about it. Content is where your writing process beings: the essays you have to write are based on your knowledge and understanding of your texts. In addition to your reading for your literature course, you are also reading complex texts – advertisements, journal articles, etc. – on a daily basis, which contributes to your reading experience and skill.
2. Taking and making effective notes
Writing notes in whole sentences helps you articulate your thoughts fully, and therefore improves the quality of your thoughts. It also helps to develop your independent thinking; the ideas have come from your head. There is a high correlation between your progress, and the effort you make in making notes. Writing the odd word or phrase on the text itself (such as “image!”) does not really develop your thinking.
3. Developing your oral skills through discussion
Good oral work helps your writing. When you work with other students in small groups, or contribute thoughtfully to whole class discussion, you force yourself to articulate your ideas and you develop your power to think. Through discussion and listening to others, you also negotiate your own standpoint, which helps you to be clearer and more persuasive about what you want to say in your writing. Clear thinking helps lead to clear writing. If there are few opportunities for discussion in your class (for example because of small size) you can compensate by working with a like-minded student or group, or with an online conversation group, such as some teachers set tup.
4. Knowing (at least some of) the rules of language usage
Grammatical rules exist for the purpose of clear communication. Sentence structure and punctuation are part of grammar and good use of these is essential to the clarity of your writing. Many students feel disabled because they think they don’t understand grammatical rules and terms. They know it is important to be familiar with the rules, but are uncertain where to begin.
A good way to improve your grammar is to list in one place (like an A4 page) the corrections your teacher makes in your work, and avoid them in subsequent work. Students often needlessly make the same error again and again. You may need to check with him/her to ensure you understand what is wrong. This only takes a minute or so each time you receive your marked work. Some students are eager to see their grade on their marked work, but don’t take time to look carefully at corrections and understand the point of them.
5. Building vocabulary and knowing the appropriate literary terminology
Good writing is partly to do with using vocabulary that expresses your meaning accurately. Build your vocabulary consciously by using a dictionary – online ones are efficient and fast – when you come across unfamiliar words.
Writing about literature requires particular terminology for literary features and genre conventions. Use a good glossary of such terms and begin to use them in your written and oral work as soon as you can to “get them in your head”. You can review some of these terms in our accompanying Glossary of literary terms for English A students.
6. Understanding the formal essay components (introduction, paragraphs, etc)
Before you begin to write major essays for this course, you should understand the components of a formal essay and how these function in practice. Formal essay writing is part of the curriculum in some educational traditions and cultures, but not all, so you may not be familiar with the concept. The conventions of the formal essay exist to help you organise and present your ideas clearly.
7. Selecting and using persuasive evidence (textual references and quotes)
The way you quote or refer to the text has much to do with the quality of the essay, and is specifically rewarded in the Written Assignment (Part One). Student essays could often be much improved by gathering and using textual evidence more effectively. Good lawyers cannot argue a case convincingly unless they have good evidence. A legal case arises out of the evidence. Similarly your argument should arise out of the text, out of your analysis of the best evidence in the text relating to your topic. The evidence is part of the argument.
Using good evidence comes from your reading and study habits at each reading stage. During your first reading you will be questioning and noting bits of text that have interest and meaning for you personally. The second stage of class discussions will often focus on certain words, phrases and passages that carry significant to the whole text. Good evidence is vital for your Written Assignment.
8. Organising ideas and evidence into coherent units or paragraphs
All writers find it challenging to break down a random mass of responses and ideas into smaller coherent units, each of which has a clear focus and will form an essential part of the argument or essay as a whole. Organising ideas calls for skill of analysis, which comes with strategy and practice. For Paper One and Paper Two essays, organisation needs to be done quite quickly in the planning time, but you can take more time for the Written Assignment, which you do at home.
9. Sequencing or structuring these units or paragraphs into a logical line of thought
‘Organisation’ and ‘structure’ are sometimes used synonymously, but they are different stages. Once you have your main ideas organised into units (organs), you can then decide how best to sequence them so as to create the most logical line of thought (argument). Sequencing is especially important with the Part One Written Assignment, as examiners will look closely at your argument. One successful student said she had cut up her Part One Written Assignment into paragraphs like playing cards and moved them around on a table until she felt she had created a clear sequence.
10. Identifying and understanding good writing from samples and practice
Reading good samples of work is one of the best ways to help you understand what a good essay should look like. It should inspire rather than depress you because you now know how you can improve your writing. It is important to know the source of the sample you use, and whether, for example, it is an officially marked IB sample.